Spring marks return of big exhibitions, new takes in visual arts world

Local artist Randy Wong-Westbrooke, a lobby designer, attends the fully installed “Immersive Van Gogh” experience at SVN West in San Francisco. Photo: Yalonda M. James, The Chronicle

After a year of uncertainty for Bay Area visual arts venues, there is some optimism. As museums reopen, once on-hold exhibition schedules are beginning to fill, and long-empty galleries return to 25% capacity. Long-awaited shows like “Last Supper in Pompeii” at the Legion of Honor will also finally get presented this season as well as new pop offerings like “Immersive Van Gogh,” the projected art attraction at SVN West.

Also making delayed debuts will be two outdoor sculpture spaces: the renovated gardens at the Oakland Museum of California and the East West Bank Art Terrace at the Asian Art Museum by Kulapat Yantrasast. Dates are still to be determined for both.

Here are some highlights from the coming season:

SVN West

‘Immersive Van Gogh’

The projected attraction that computer-animates the work of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh is a bold spectacle. Some of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings are brought to life and projected on the walls of the old Fillmore West ballroom. It’s a lot of art coming at you in 38 minutes, but it’s one hell of a way to wake up from our long pandemic art nap.

Through Sept. 6. Hours vary. $34.99-$49.99. 10 Van Ness Ave. 844-307-4644. www.vangoghsf.com

“Still life with Skull, Leeks and Pitcher” by Pablo Picasso, on display in the “Calder-Picasso” exhibit at the de Young Museum through May 23. Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle

De Young Museum


The comparative show of 20th century masters Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso feels like an intimate conversation between their two creative practices. A must not miss in its first American exhibition.

Through May 23.

‘Nampeyo and the Sikyátki Revival’

Nampeyo, famed Tewa-Hopi potter, is celebrated with an exhibition of 32 of her pots from the collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The exhibition pairs the work with examples of more traditional Hopi pottery from which she found inspiration.

Through Feb. 26, 2023.

9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. $6-$15, with free admission on Saturdays. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, S.F. For details on exhibitions and more, go to www.deyoung.famsf.org.

Wangechi Mutu’s “Water Woman” statue, is in the exhibit “Wangetchi Mutu: Am I Speaking, Are You Listening?” at the Legion of Honor May 1-Nov. 7. Photo: Gladstone Gallery and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Legion of Honor

‘Last Supper in Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave’

The long-awaited study of art and everyday objects from Pompeii promises to open this spring. Rituals of life around dining and socializing are a focus of the exhibition, something that feels appropriate after our denial of these pleasures during the pandemic.

Opening date to be determined.

‘Wangechi Mutu: I Am Speaking, Are You Listening?’

Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu is known for known for sculpture, film and collage that explore motifs like Afrofuturism, post-humanism and feminism. Mutu’s site-specific installation at the Legion of Honor aims to create “a purposeful examination of art histories, mythologies, and the techniques of archiving and remembering” as Mutu’s work is juxtaposed against the classical architecture and European art in the museum’s Rodin Galleries.

May 1-Nov. 7

Reopening date and hours to be announced. 100 34th Ave., S.F. 415-750-3600. www.legionofhonor.famsf.org

Nam June Paik’s “Magnet TV,” on display from May through October in the artist’s solo exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Photo: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

‘Nam June Paik’

This extensive retrospective of the celebrated international artist who coined the term “electronic superhighway” is being exclusively presented in the United States at SFMOMA. Bringing together over 200 works of media, the exhibition will celebrate Paik’s multidisciplinary work that encompasses art, music, performance and technology.

May 8- Oct. 2021

‘Contemporary Optics: Olafur Eliasson, Teresita Fernández, and Anish Kapoor’

Olafur Eliasson’s selfie-favorite “One-Way Colour Tunnel” returns to the museum this spring as well as  additional sculpture and wall reliefs by Teresita Fernández and Anish Kapoor.

Through March 2022

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays-Mondays; 1-8 p.m. Thursdays. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 151 Third St., S.F. 415-357-4000. Visit www.sfmoma.org for ticket prices and more details.

Zheng Chongbin’s installation “I Look for the Sky,” now on view at the Asian Art Museum. Photo: Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

‘Zheng Chongbin: I Look for the Sky’

How artists think about space is the central question in a two-part exhibition by Marin County artist Zheng Chongbin. The installation includes videos, projections and 5,000 square feet of vinyl and scrim suspended beneath the building skylights exploring how manipulation of light and space can alter our perceptions.

Now on view.

‘Memento: Jayashree Chakravarty and Lam Tung-pang’

This installation of architecture-scale maps and projections is an attempt to artistically immerse visitors in “the chaos and emotional rupture of rapid urbanization.”

Now on view.

‘After Hope: Videos of Resistance’

A new multimedia experience of 54 short videos from more than 60 artists that explores the role of hope in contemporary art and activism.

Now on view.

1-8 p.m. Thursdays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays-Mondays. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. $15, with free admission on Sundays. 200 Larkin St., S.F. www.asianart.org.

A still from “Golem: A Call to Action” by Julie Weitz, on display at the Contemporary Jewish Museum through Dec. 5. Photo: Contemporary Jewish Museum

Contemporary Jewish Museum

‘Golem: A Call to Action’

This new digital exhibition by Julie Weitz draws on the folkloric figure of the golem and constitutes three video artworks — “Golem v. Golem,” “My Golem as a Wildland Firefighter” and “A Prayer for Burnt Forests.” Weitz uses the golem mythology as a device to explore contemporary social and ecological issues.

March 28-Dec. 5

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. Closed Monday-Wednesday. $16 general admission. 736 Mission St., S.F. 415-655-7888. www.thecjm.org.

Jay DeFeo and Hayward King, October 15, 1962. Curators Margaret Tedesco and Leila Weefur at SFAI’s historic Chestnut Campus, 2020. Photo: San Francisco Art Institute

San Francisco Art Institute

‘A Spirit of Disruption’

The San Francisco Art Institute’s 150th anniversary exhibition curated by Margaret Tedesco and Leila Weefur seeks to high the stories of alumni artist frequently left out of other histories of the school.

11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday; 11 a.m. -6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Friday, March 19- July 3. Free. San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut St., S.F. 415-749-4563. A virtual version of the exhibition will be available at www.sfai.edu.

Museum of Craft and Design

‘Design by Time’

The exhibition explores how the passage of time, prolonged exposure to elements and the weight of gravity among other factors impacts objects and works of art.

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; Noon-5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Free-$10. For more details, go to www.sfmcd.org.

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